Authorities lockdown Lautoka Hospital as one of 4 new patients’ health deteriorates

Fiji’s disciplinary forces have locked down Lautoka Hospital in a bid to prevent further transmission after a surgical patient in the Intensive Care Unit tested positive for the virus in one of four new COVID19 cases announced today.

The patient aged 53 years whose condition has been deemed ‘extremely serious’ was admitted to the Lautoka Hospital on 19 April for a surgical procedure. The surgery was said to have been successful, but on 28 April he developed respiratory symptoms. He was transferred to the ICU unit this morning where swabbing confirmed a positive diagnosis for COVID19.

Authorities suspect the 53-year-old may be the source of infection in two recent cases at the hospital involving two doctors, a 25-year-old female and a 30-year-old male, based on a review of the timeline of events that indicated that both doctors had attended to the patient, and prior to that had returned a negative test. The condition of the 53-year-old or case/patient 125, also indicated that he was likely a late-stage carrier of the virus, Permanent Secretary Health Dr James Fong said.

“We do not know when or where this patient contracted the virus. It could have been from outside or within the hospital. Our response must consider both possibilities,” Dr Fong said.

“Our first priority is to contain the cases we know about within Lautoka Hospital. To prevent the hospital from becoming groundzero for a wider outbreak, the members of our disciplined forces have locked down Lautoka Hospital in a matter of hours –– it is now a tightly-contained, full-time COVID care facility.”

More than 400 patients, doctors, nurses, and other staff have been sequestered and quarantined within the hospital until authorities determine who else may or may not have had contact with case/patient 125.

“Some staff who have left the hospital have been called back in. RFMF personnel and members of the Police have ring-fenced the entire hospital and will strictly manage who is allowed onto the premises.

“Given we expect more cases, and more severe cases. Sections within the Lautoka Hospital are being converted into intensive care units, which will house additional beds and ventilators.” 

All medical services that used to be catered for at the Lautoka Hospital have been re-routed to a network of back-up hospitals in Nadi, Ba, and Sigatoka, as well as the Punjas and Kamikamica health centres in Lautoka.

Dr Fong says the staff of Lautoka Hospital will be accommodated and work within the hospital while contact tracing continues.

“Those who are working will operate on high-alert, fully-equipped in the proper personal protective equipment. They will be screened regularly and tested often. We are going to provide them with any and all support that they need. Food, supplies, bedding, whatever they require, we will provide.”

Authorities will also step up swabbing around Lautoka.

The second local case is a 27-year-old female who resides in Narere and had entered quarantine on 28 April 2021 as a contact of one of the cases from Makoi. Further investigations revealed that, during a family gathering on 17 April, she also had close contact with another case from Makoi.

“That gathering is now potentially the source point of three cases. It was only a small family gathering with members from a few different households, but that was more than enough to have national ramifications. It is why one of our first and most important health measures we introduced was to limit gatherings, of all sizes, everywhere in Fiji,” Dr Fong said.

The members of this patient’s household have also been in quarantine from 29 April and all have tested negative for COVID-19 at this time. 

“Contact tracing is ongoing into her movements before being quarantined, unfortunately, she did not have the careFIJI app installed, so we are relying entirely on our traditional contact tracing methods.”

The other two cases are border quarantine cases and involve two soldiers returning from peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights.

Authorities have also been able to genetically link the first Ra case (53-year-old that was announced on 28 April) to the main cluster emanating from the soldier via the presence of the same B1617 variant, however are still to determine the source of infection. In fact origins of two other cases are still be confirmed, one of which is case 120 or the 25-year-old doctor, and the other case, the 68-year-old man from Ra.

Timeline of Events

19 April 2021 – Patient/Case 125 is admitted to the Lautoka Hospital for a surgical procure which was successful

26 April 2021 – Case 121 tested negative for the virus

28 April 2021 – Patient/Case 125 developed some respiratory symptoms

29 April – Patient/Case 125 was seen by case/patient 120 who is the 25 year-old female doctor and was asked to be swabbed for COVID19. He refused on two ocassions.

1 May – 25-year-old doctor developed symptoms

2 May – Case 121 or the 30-year-old male doctor assessed 53yo.

3 May – 30yo and 25yo doctors’ positive diagnosis announced

5 May – 53-year-old man tests positive after swabbing

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